Two city-based school girls have decided to make migrant labourers working in the area surrounding the school aware of their rights as an Indian citizen, by enrolling them as voters. Yet to become eligible to vote themselves, Noor Takkar and Siya Malhotra from The British School here, have started a campaign 'My Vote My Voice' to educate over 125 migrant workers and their families about their voting rights. The girls have successfully helped at least 60 workers in obtaining their voter identity cards under the campaign that has been running for two years now. The idea for the initiative, Noor said, germinated after they attended a week-long workshop that required them to teach children living in the slums opposite their school. "When I met the children and talked to them, I saw how truly appreciative they were of the opportunity they were getting.
I realised that these children were just like me: enthusiastic, loud and innocent," the class 12 student said. Soon enough, the girls realised that illiteracy and poverty were part of a vicious cycle that was driven by politics, therefore, making it important for every citizen to be aware of their right to vote. "The prevailing opinion was that government officials, for decades, have favoured their political careers over the interests of the people, resulting in widespread and systematic inequality," she said. "This made me realise that the system is broken, and the only way to fix it is to make the politicians recognise the needs of these families through the exercise of the most fundamental political institution in any democracy voting," she added. As part of the campaign, the girls not only educated the workers about the importance of voting, but also enlightened them about the procedure of registration -- how to fill up the form, getting together the required documents as well as assisting them in taking photographs. "The workers' responses to the awareness program and voter registration drives has been overwhelming," Noor said. However, the journey was not easy -- many migrants already had voter id cards with the addresses of their native villages, getting them to skip a day's work to get all the documentation done et all. "Despite having motivated and encouraged them continuously, some of them did not bother to cancel their older voter ids," she said. The girls now hope to rope in students from other schools in the city to expand the reach of the campaign. "We have decided to include students from other schools to volunteer in the next voter registration drives. We are also planning to hold drives in Mumbai and South Delhi. "Later on, we might try to cover other areas where migrant workers are in substantial numbers," she said. Noor and Siya saw major sponsors for their campaign in their fellow students.
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